Hydroponics – the Importance of Nutrients and pH Levels for Optimal Results

Hydroponics systems are generally super efficient and effective growing systems. However, there are many factors which can influence not only the growth of your plants but also the overall yield of the crop. Here we look at two of the most important: nutrient supply and pH levels.

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The importance of nutrients

Many of the same principles which apply to conventional fertilizers used in soil-based cultivation are also true for HYDROPONICS growing systems. The nutrient solution used in a hydroponic system is responsible for delivering all the essential ‘food’ to the roots of the plants in place of the plant having to search in the soil for these nutrients. Nutrients for use in hydroponic systems can be readily purchased either in stores or online. Many commercial brands are high-concentrate mixtures and typically require between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon of product per litre.

They are also available in powder or liquid form and some may even have specific purposes such as growth or bloom. The liquid form is somewhat easier to deal with, dissolves rapidly, and often comes with pH buffers included, although the liquid form is also more expensive.

Powdered nutrient mixes are less expensive and require only minimally more work in terms of preparation. But it’s critical to ensure that mixing is done thoroughly and that it becomes completely dissolved in the reservoir for maximum results. In many cases, powdered nutrient mixes do not include pH buffering.

Similar to conventional growing techniques, it is also possible to use organic fertilizers with hydroponic growing systems. However, hydro-organic growing systems are far more labour intensive and can lead to pump blockage problems due to the clogging effect of the organic compounds.

The importance of pH levels

A pH level of 6.3 is considered as optimal for most plants grown in a hydroponic system; however, many plants will grow within a range of pH levels from 5.8 to 6.8 without problems. One advantage of hydroponic growing systems is the ease of checking and adjusting pH levels. Ready-made pH testing kits can be bought at most DIY or garden stores or online. Maintaining the ideal pH level within the hydroponic growing system is essential for optimal results, and pH testing should be carried out on a weekly basis. When the pH level becomes excessive or insufficient, it can cause nutrient deficiencies in the roots of the plants.

Adjustments to the pH level of the solution can be achieved through the addition of, for example, soluble potash, which will increase the pH level. Alternatively, the addition of phosphoric acid can be used to lower the pH level. If your crop is particularly sensitive to pH levels, you can even install a digital pH meter which will provide an easy and instant method of monitoring.